One Sunflower

Slice of Life stories: Fatherhood

on June 22, 2010

( for more about Slice of Life stories see Two Writing Teachers link on my front page.)

Fatherhood Story One

He, no, I guess I should say “she”, walked into the classroom for our parent/teacher conference promptly at 8 o’clock on a Monday morning. 

“How are you doing?” I asked, reaching out to shake hands.

“Well, I’m going through some changes, as you can see,” was the answer.

“Do you want to tell me about it?” (How did I get so brave to ask what was topmost in my mind?)

Thus began my conversation with Tasha, née Thomas, the father of one of my students.  I had heard rumors of this transition from my teacher’s assistant who rides the bus with the children in the mornings.  She had pulled me aside one afternoon to say that this dad had escorted his daughter to the bus two mornings in a row dressed as a woman. She was worried because the other students were asking questions and she didn’t know what to say.

The issue took on a new dimension when the other students started asking the little girl about it and she didn’t know what to say either.  That was my cue that it was time for a chat with the parent.

Tasha sat down in the tiny preschool chair, laying a purse on the floor and crossing hands with pink fingernails on blue-jeaned knees.  We talked awkwardly at first but soon I was passing tissues as we became more comfortable with each other and the issue at hand.

“Yes, I’m Tasha now,” said the twenty-eight years old, finally claiming a birthright. 

Fatherhood Story Two

“I freak people out, they say I’m wild and loud. I know I’ve got anger issues; I didn’t have such a great life growing up,” Shane said as he pulled his shirt up on one side revealing the scar from a gun shot he received in high school.  “But I want to be there for my kids.”

This tall, gangly, African-American father of four has been coming to visit my classroom for two years now while his kids have been in my classroom. This year, he wanted to volunteer in the classroom but he was worried  his “energy” and loudness wouldn’t be deemed appropriate.  I welcomed him, telling him he is just what my students need in this female-dominated world of “school.”

I sat at lunch one day chatting with Shane much the same way I talk to my 22 year old son.  We discussed his past job experiences and goals for the future.  Shane had never finished high school or held a job for long.  “I really need to get a job but I’ve had some run-ins with the police, you know.  I’m on a waiting list at the tech school but I’ve got to pass a math test first.  Katie wants me to be helping out more.”  Shane’s wife has been the primary bread-winner and stabilizing force in this family for the past 5 years.  She welcomed his two children from a previous drug-ridden relationship and gave birth to two more children.

Shane would come in to volunteer for two weeks in a row and then disappear for a month.  But I could always count on him appearing for parent/teacher conferences, these parents were definitely trying hard to be a team when it came to their kids.  Shane always thanked me for my “straight talk.”

It’s been 3 months since I last saw Shane.  Yesterday I pulled into my carport and found him wielding a leaf blower on the hillside behind our complex.  As I got out of my car, he pulled off his mask and greeted me.  “You’ve gotten a job!” I exclaimed. 

“Yup, but with my allergies it’s probably the worst thing I could be doing.  But it’s making Katie happy,” he concluded.

I’m keeping my fingers crossed for this dad who has his children’s names tattooed across his neck and shoulders.



7 responses to “Slice of Life stories: Fatherhood

  1. Juliann says:

    Our work in early childhood is as much about the parents and the children isn’t it. Great slices.

  2. Ashley C. says:

    That second story sounds just like the parent of one of my students. You just can’t help but love those parents and want them and their children to succeed. It makes me tear up!

    Great stories!

  3. Lynnelle says:

    Great slices!!

  4. Mrs. V says:

    You captured both moments well. I was able to picture both. It sounds like you make great connections with parents – so important.

  5. mag says:

    Now that all our volunteers must have a valid CORI I think that might make some volunteers unable to take such an active part.
    Challenging topics for a classroom discussion… somehow just when I think I’ve heard most everything…. something new arises. Your comments show a compassionate, sensible educator. Keep that energy alive.

  6. Ms. Tracy says:

    Simply fabulous! Respecting and honoring each family as it is but encouraging them to grow is not always easy or comfortable. I do wonder though…how did things go with Tasha’s daughter in class after this conference?

    • onesunflower says:

      This all happened in the last few weeks of school. The school counselor met with the daughter twice and opened a diaglogue with Tasha. I’ve spoken briefly with the kindergarten teacher notifying her that we need to conference before school starts so that the supports are in place from day-1.

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